Tokyo to Kyoto: Planes and Trains

In this post, I’ll explain how we ended up getting from Tokyo to Kyoto and also explain the quickest way. We ended up doing a combination of flying and taking a train. It wasn’t the quickest way, but for us it was the cheapest.

British Airways Avios

I absolutely love British Airways Avios when it comes to booking short flights. Flights under 600 miles only cost 4,500 Avios for flights outside of the US (they cost 7,500 for flights in the US).

British Airways Avios Award Chart
British Airways Avios Award Chart

Japan is relatively small country so flights within Japan are usually short. It just so happens that Japan Airlines is a Oneworld partner of British Airways, so we can use Avios to book flights on Japan Airways. Kyoto does not have an airport. The closest airport to Kyoto is Osaka, so that is the airport I was looking at. Tokyo (HND) and Osaka (KIX) airports are 269 miles apart, meaning that this costs 4,500 plus taxes/fees.

Tokyo (HND) to Osaka (KIX)
Tokyo (HND) to Osaka (KIX)

Another great part about this is that British Airways charges minimal amounts of taxes/fees on flights within Japan on Japan Airlines. The flights came out to only $2.80 per person.

Total cost per person for flight from Tokyo to Osaka
Total cost per person for flight from Tokyo to Osaka

Japan Trains

The trains in Japan are known to be world class. From Osaka, there were a few options for getting to Kyoto. The first option would be to make about 4 different connections and it would cost 12,000 yen per person. We did not feel like doing all those connections, so we opted for a slightly more expensive option. There is a direct train from the Osaka airport to Kyoto called the Haruka train. If you are a foreigner (you need to show your passport to prove this), you can buy a discount ticket package: the ICOCA & HARUKA ticket. A one-way ticket cost 3,600 Yen:

  • 1,600 Yen for the Haruka train ticket
  • 500 Yen deposit for the ICOCA card
  • 1500 Yen preloaded on the ICOCA card


The ICOCA card can be used for a lot of transportation and shopping within the Kansai region, which includes Kyoto and Osaka. Even if you decide not to use the ICOCA card at all, you can return it at the end of your journey to get the 500 Yen deposit back and your remaining balance back minus a 220 Yen handling fee. So if you don’t use it at all, your HARUKA train ticket would cost 1820 Yen. The 620 Yen difference between this price and the cost of taking 4 different connections is worth it in my opinion.

The Fastest Way

The Shinkansen bullet train can get you from Tokyo to Kyoto in under 3 hours for between 13,000 and 14,000 Yen. It also looks like it would be a pretty cool experience. This is by far the fastest and most convenient way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto, but was too expensive for us to take on this trip.


Miles and points can open up some cheap options for travel. If we had to pay for flights from Tokyo to Osaka, then the cost of getting to Kyoto would have been similar to the cost of just taking the bullet train. We were able to use miles and points to save us a ton of money. British Airways Avios is a great tool you can use to get around Japan. This is one of my favorite uses of Avios.

What is your favorite use of Avios?

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